The Coalition Against Terrorist Media ran the following op-ed on Hamas's al-Aqsa television network in Sunday’s Providence Journal. It argues that “a major element” of Al-Aqsa’s programming is aimed at mobilizing children for holy war.
Using Mickey Mouse to incite terror
By Jonathan Snow
The Providence Journal
May 27, 2007
The world reacted in horror the other week as video spread over newscasts and the Internet of beloved children’s character Mickey Mouse being used to incite Palestinian children to hatred and violence. As international outrage grew over this desecration of the beloved cultural icon, the Palestinian minister of information, a member of the Hamas-led coalition government, ordered the program, which airs on Hamas’s al-Aqsa television network, to be shut down. Hamas has responded with contempt, assuring NBC News that it will keep broadcasting the show as it is.
Hamas’s response was predictable. Hamas has a vast media empire, consisting of newspapers, magazines, Internet sites, and radio and television stations, almost all of which contain similar content geared toward children. Hamas will not stop producing this content because they believe that it helps them bring children into the Hamas family, forging future supporters, leaders, and suicide bombers.
The video was taken from a children’s show called Tomorrow’s Pioneers and features “Farfur,” a near-perfect clone of Mickey. On the show, Farfur and his young companions sing and dance while pushing their school-aged viewers to take part in violent jihad against Israel and the West. A recent episode of the show, for example, featured children stating that “we will annihilate the Jews” and “we are defending al-Aqsa with our souls and our blood.”
From the time that the al-Aqsa television station was launched, in January 2006, a major element of the programming has been geared toward children. The New York Times profiled the station in its infancy, noting that the station’s featured performer was Uncle Hazim, the star of a television show designed to “teach children the basics of militant Palestinian politics.” The show had previously been a huge hit on Hamas’s sister radio station, with Uncle Hazim attracting as many as 10,000 children at his public appearances.
In addition to its broadcast media, Hamas operates a colorful children’s magazine called al-Fateh (the Conqueror). This magazine, which includes cartoons, pictures, games, puzzles, poetry, and stories, has been available worldwide via the Internet for the last five years. The focus of the magazine is martyrdom, encouraging its readers to support Hamas attacks against Israeli civilians and glorifying the culture of death.
This goal is accomplished through the use of strategic words and images. Suicide bombers are given a place of honor in each issue, with stories of their “heroic” actions and praise heaped upon them by their family, friends, and Palestinian leaders. Smiling children are shown riding on rockets and brandishing swords, while surrounded by Palestinian flags. Statements such as “no to negotiations…yes to continued resistance and the gun” from issue eight or “I ask every Muslim to try and hurt a Zionist before the Zionists get to him, and to die as a martyr for Allah” from issue 24 are representative of the overall tone of the publication.
Hamas frequently sends children to the front lines, providing the organization with powerful images of rock-throwing youngsters to use on magazine and newspaper covers and on posters plastered throughout the West Bank and Gaza. These iconic pictures, originally made popular during the early days of the first Intifada in 1987, are one of Hamas’s favorite propaganda tools. They allow Hamas to frame the conflict as a struggle between virtually powerless, but fearless, Palestinian youths and the “all-powerful” Israeli army.
For Hamas, it is vital to continue to prepare Palestinian children for war. The children are impressionable, dedicated, and intrepid; the perfect Hamas recruits. If Hamas were to give up their youth-indoctrination efforts, it would be impossible for them to maintain their political stranglehold over Palestinian society. The youth are Hamas’s base and power.
In the end, political pressure may force Hamas to drop Farfur from its television lineup, but Hamas will continue to attract children through its other programs and outlets. Mickey Mouse spouting terrorist invective may be shocking, but it is merely a window into the larger dangers of the Hamas media network, which Hamas cannot and will not change.
Removing Farfur from the airwaves would be a small step in the right direction, but like the formation of the new Palestinian unity government, it would simply be a bandage on the larger problem. So long as Hamas remains devoted to the destruction of Israel and the West, it will continue to be a poison to Palestinian children and society. Western nations are right to continue to boycott Hamas, before yet another generation of children is indoctrinated into Hamas’s culture of death.
Jonathan L. Snow is manager of research for the Coalition Against Terrorist Media, a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is writing a book on Hamas media.